Water Treatment Is More Crucial Now Than Ever – But Got No $$ in the Stimulus

Photo: Smithsonian Magazine

By Zoey Shipley and Monica Medina

Drinking water and wastewater utilities – many of which are run by state and local governments – did not get dedicated assistance in the Stimulus package the House of Representatives will vote on today, even though they are going to face steeply declining revenue when people and businesses can’t pay their water bills, Politico reported “[A]t a time when proper sanitation and the flow of clean water to every home, hospital, and essential industry is more critical than ever before, the decision to not include meaningful support for this sector is shameful,” Adam Krantz, CEO of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), said in a statement.

Why This Matters: No one in America should be denied access to clean water for drinking and washing ever — but especially during the coronavirus pandemic. It is a huge problem that clean water utilities were not included in this tranche of federal funding. The public clean water sector asked Congress for $12.5 billion in aid because they are expecting up to a 20% decline in revenue, straining operations and putting the public’s safety at risk when we can least afford it.  Not to mention that certain parts of the country already experience droughts due to climate change and water shortages, a problem that will only worsen as the days get longer and warmer.

Water Utilities Will Keep It Flowing

According to the NACWA, utilities around the country are  “suspending water shut-offs and restoring connections for water and wastewater service to delinquent accounts, accepting a financial loss in restoring those accounts because of the critical role sanitation plays in getting a handle on the coronavirus.”  They are also working to ensure their workers are performing their duties safely and that they can have continuity of operations for as long as needed.

    • NACWA conservatively estimates the impact to clean water utilities nationwide of lost revenues due to coronavirus at $12.5 Billion. This is a low-end estimate, assuming an average loss of revenue of 20% which is well within the range of what individual utilities are already projecting. Some utilities are anticipating closer to a 30% or 40% loss in revenue.”

America’s Failing Water Infrastructure 

The lack of clean water was a huge issue even before the pandemic.  As Our Daily Planet has recently reported, “whether it is drinking water in Michigan, floodwaters in Missouri and Mississippi, dams versus salmon in Washington and Idaho, or wastewater from fracking in North Dakota — clean water is an issue.” Water contamination from a crumbling infrastructure is causing citizens to get sick, but instead of finding solutions cities are instead making water unaffordable. As the effects of climate change continue to cause more shortages of clean water, prices have gone up making it unaffordable in some areas of the country — not to mention the world.

What You Can Do:  To state the obvious, continue to protect yourself and stop the spread of the Coronavirus by washing your hands often!  That is something everyone can do to flatten the curve.

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